I lost that faith years ago too …
Sunday 18th August 2019 @ 11:54 am
There have been a couple of interesting religio–sociological pieces in the Christian–world news recently. The first which I pointed to a couple of weeks ago was Christian sexual purity celebrity Josh Harris, who famously ‘kissed dating goodbye’ and has now done to the same to his wife and his faith. He had already by the way, disavowed much of his earlier theology.
The second is Hillsong worship leader & song writer Marty Sampson, who to be fair (after a really poor public statement that was so full of grammatical and linguistic terror that I wondered how a song–writer in the Hillsong ilk can possibly be allowed to pen such a thing) has since been more open and clarifying, stating his faith not gone but is on ‘incredibly shaky ground.’
My own thoughts are not dissimilar to many of the things Josh and Marty have written – although that is nothing compared to the things which have been written about them.
My own faith also is on incredibly shaky ground.
My own faith is weak, fully questioning, full of contradictions, living in struggle, suspectable to wondering & wandering, and at times unholy and unbiblical. It hangs by a thread at times.
And it is honest.
My first, and honest, question when I read about the famous celebrity Christians giving up faith, was ‘well what the flip kinda faith did they have anyway?’
It might sound trite, but it’s a vital question. The answer actually is not too hard to consider. American influenced right wing, evangelical conservative exclusionist theology underwrites the theologies that Josh and Marty have struggled with or left. It is a theology that when worked out in the real world holds as it’s highest goal a promise of escape to an eternal pleasure for ever, and a belief that rejection of this theology either by words or actions leads to eternal punishment for ever (it is worth noting that in this rejection they are not rejecting God or Christianity, but rejecting one version of it’s outworking). It keeps in those who are in, and excludes those who are out. It is also a theology held by (generously) 25% of world Christians, yet interestingly for me and my own baggage, it is held by close to 40% of Northern Ireland. Hence, if you are brought up in Northern Ireland Protestantism it is not an unfair assumption that (if you keep your religion) you will believe that your way of understanding yourself, God, Scripture, and the world, is the only correct way. You will have been brought up knowing that Roman Catholics might be Christian, but are wrong. The thought that your Sunday School teachers, youth leaders and ministers were all in the same mould (broadly speaking) would not have entered your mind. You were right. You might even go so far as to link your heritage to being one of the ten lost tribes of Israel – proving that you are really are God’s chosen people. Right here in Ulster.
This lost tribes theory also goes to the founding of faith in America, where the rationale goes that the Christians (God’s true remnant) were in Ireland and through emigration went to found America – bringing their faith with them, and leading (ultimately) to evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell jr tweeting: “Conservatives & Christians need to stop electing ‘nice guys.’ They might make great Christian leaders but the United States needs street fighters like @realDonaldTrump at every level of government b/c the liberal fascists Dems are playing for keeps & many Repub leaders are a bunch of wimps!”
Really? That’s how conservative evangelicals talk about people?
So, yes, I left that faith too. For so many many reasons.
But I did not leave God.
Actually, that’s not strictly true.
My journey of faith, thus far, has been as exhilarating as it has been excruciating. It has been formed and reformed time and time again, always I hope, in honesty. And over the last 5–10 years it has taken the most difficult journey thus far. The 12 inches from my brain to my heart. In other words, I’m learning to think with the brain in my gut – keeping reason and feeling together – allowing them to inform and infuse each other. I have been leaving aside black & white, desiring to live in the full rainbow.
For me, this attempt at full colour faith cannot read large parts of the Torah without thinking, ‘shit, Dawkins has a point, YHWH is just plain psycho here.’ … and then finds a breath and says, ‘so, hang on, what do I think is happening below the layers, and what do I learn from it – how do I carry this into today, might the Spirit of God be provoking something?’
This approach to my faith reads the stories of Jesus and cannot give credibility to actions by any church that use those stories of Jesus to exclude anyone or any group of people from the love mercy, justice and forgiveness of Divine Love. Jesus included all, and was executed by the religious for doing so.
This approach creates doors in walls to walk through, knowing that God might be hiding on the other side. It welcomes strangers remembering they may be God in disguise. It frequently second guesses itself, frequently gets things wrong, knows for sure that the only thing it knows for sure is that it doesn’t know everything for sure. And it tries (which is ever so difficult in the western imagination of political and social life at the moment) to live in hope.
I left the faith that Josh and Marty left years ago. But I didn’t leave God. Or rather, I’ve discovered God did not leave me.
The biggest learning I have had since?
My ability to somehow keep holding on to God as if everything somehow depended on me was ludicrous. Turns out my faith was actually never about me at all. It’s still not. My faith is in the bit I cannot fully know, understand, see or touch … it is wrapped up around the One who Scripture attests to as being beyond all my searching and behind my ability to know anything. My faith has changed from my striving to hold onto something, to simply enjoying being held.
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